Thurs 3 June 2010
03.06.2010 - 03.06.2010 93 °F
Today was the day when we would be leaving the big city and getting out into the regions. Before we left, Lia, Violet's daughter came round to give us some maps and wish us well on our journey. She works for Armenia Travel and has helped to organise our visit.
The route we took was towards the north into the district of Lori. It was quite a long drive through grassy plains - slowly getting higher in altitude. The first big town that we drove through was Spitak which was close to the epicentre of the 1988 earthquake and was completely destroyed. Between Spitak and the regions 'capital' Vanadzor, there were miles and miles of abandoned factories from the Soviet era. Apparently there had been fabric, metal, stone factories all through the valley but none are working anymore. It's quite eerie to see so many empty buildings. I just cannot imagine what will happen to them. It would probably cost a fortune to knock them down and reuse the stone. If it was the UK someone would have turned them into luxury flats - that definitely won't be happening here. As we moved out of the capital we could see how a lot of people live in the rural areas. Many grow their own vegetables and keep animals. Their houses are patched up and people seem to be quite resourceful in how they recycle old furniture, cars etc to make a gate, a shelter - I saw a house made of what looked like the metal container used for transporting fuel on lorries.
After Vanadzor the valley starts to change and becomes v-shaped and wooded - quite a contrast to the grassy plains nearer Yerevan. The river was also swift moving - it really looks as if its in a hurry and can't stop. I don't think I've seen a river that doesn't have slow, deeper sections. This river was relentless. Our first tourist stop was a visit to Kobayr Monastery which was reached by a narrow path flanked by small cottages. We had a great view from up there - there was also an interesting cave behind the church but we didn't venture that far. A lot of the churches are built close to the edges of gorges and this was no exception.
We found a nice cafe on the road - again the food was great. It's fantastic to have Saro with us as he makes sure we get vegetarian food. I am trying lots of different tabbouleh salads so that I can discover the ultimate version. I am so taken with this food - there are lots of dishes I have never tried before and would love to be able to get the recipes - maybe a future project.
After lunch we headed up to take in two monasteries - Haghpat and Sanahin - apparently the latter means, older than over there - meaning Sanahin monastery is older than Haghpat. If you strain your eyes its possible to see one from the other. Sanahin town is extraordinary - its perched right on the edge of the cliff. There is a cable car linking the main road to Sanahin - we were quite tempted - we like a good cable car.
Finally, we arrived at our homestay - Daravant in Dilijian. It was absolutely beautiful. I would recommend it to any fellow travellers going that way. Razmik the owner is a carpenter and has built some of the wooden parts of the house. Before we knew it we were sharing beers with Ginny from the US and her driver Arthur. When we ate we were also joined by a couple and their friend from Belgium. Amazing food and great company. There were a few toasts with vodka and I also managed to have a cup of tea and an icecream at the same time. Bliss!